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An Unapologetic Paraphrasing of Bastiat's Apology for Landed Property

This is my admittedly snarky paraphrasing of Bastiat's rambling apology on Landed Property in his Economic Harmonies. I think by translating the verbiage into modern terms, which I couldn't help but do so with a pinch of sarcasm, it becomes clear he didn't prove much of anything at all. Instead, a reader feels underwhelmed by its points and overwhelmed by the verbosity of his rather banal parables. Even though he shows what actually causes land to increase in value when he describes the improvements of a city/town growing around land, he insists that all the gained value obtained by landlords by that mechanism is actually just the fruits of their past labors, ignoring his own supposition that value comes from the service provided, in the case of Land, by a better site to occupy, not labor.

If it pleases you, enjoy the following:

The economists of all sorts say that landlord's charge rent for value they did not create. Most say it is unjust, but some begrudgingly admit it is useful to charge this rent. I say it is not only useful, but just because natural land only has utility and that isn't the same as value.

Let us look at Jonathan in America, he can't get anyone to pay him for land when they have the option to occupy other land freely. He shows us that the landlord cannot charge any more than than the interest on his improvements for land - except less than that since improvements become easier to produce over time because that's the nature of capital. This proves the landlord can't charge for natural utility, so that proves there is no such thing as value in land as it exists in its natural state.

To prove this further, let's marvel at nature's wonders, such as the cycles responsible for fresh water. This  proves further that though nature can provide services, it provides them gratuitously, and therefore cannot be said to create value, only erode the value of similar services provided by men. Not only that, but when it comes to what makes land valuable, that is the result of many years of permanent capital improvements to the land performed over many, many years.

So away with your demands for a right to employment, because without previous men's efforts, the land would not be as productive as it is under the regime of private property where they can be sure to own the fruits of their labor and accumulate capital to amplify those fruits, helping everyone by providing more products for everyone to consume.

If you insist that better soil, being of more utility, has more value, I insist it does not as long as it is provided by nature, remember nature's services are gratuitous so they can't have value. But since land with better soil does get more rent due to its greater utility, let me remind you that I just said that that utility actually comes from many years of past permanent improvements by land owners, so that value doesn't actually come from nature. Aren't you grateful that past landlords have been so hard working?

Now I admit, when society becomes more complex, and we build up infrastructure for towns and cities around land that people own, their land gets more valuable, but don't complain, because professionals make more money in cities too. It's really only fair for landlords to be able to charge more for their service of a space to rent so they can keep up with the Joneses since they put so much past labor into making their land valuable in the past. So even though their past labors are not what is causing the increase in value, any increase in value is actually only just remuneration for the services of that past labor.

If that doesn't satisfy you, let me remind you, utility isn't the same thing as value, and the fact that bunch of people were financially ruined by trying to become landlords in Australia proves it.

So, my friendly readers, remember, political economy is tricky stuff, and if you don't pay close attention to arguments, the idea of value will be very confusing and you will thus be confused. Listen then to the truth I tell you: Land ownership is just despite the problems described by the economists, so don't be fooled by those socialists, be thankful that benevolent capitalists have made the world such a better place (it's better that we ignore that most of the labor that actually went into creating their capital was slave labor, I'm against slavery, I only think it's just to get rich off of the labors of others through rent). Accept that paying rent to your philanthropic landlord in order to live and work for a living is really for the best. How else would they have the time to write explanations to justify what you owe to them?


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The man who walks lightly

The man who walks lightly is the one living for Virtue.
He perceives the difficulty in his path, so he moves to his destination with ease.
He produces ten thousand things, but he owns very little.
He would rather yield a foot for what is right, than gain an inch by the wrong means.
He never takes offense, but defends swiftly and surely.
He requests his needs from others, served by many while commanding none.
He is seen as a leader, because others follow his example.